We had a very lazy Sunday morning, despite very loud church bells ringing from down the road early in the morning. We set out for breakfast not realising that Vienna is closed on Sundays. We finally came to a bakery in the centre of the city and breakfasted outside the Hofburg, while watching lots of horses (wearing ear hats) and carts, and listening to the haunting sound of a young boy playing a recorder/keyboard type instrument. There were hundreds of tour groups around, but when we went 100 metres to the north of the city there was no one there. We decided to go and see a pretty building we had seen lit up the night before and it turned out to be the Rathaus building. We wandered all around and also saw Parliament and Votivkirche, a really pretty church with scaffolding on...
The entire area was full of really grand buildings and there were very few people there, it was like our own little corner of the city. We sat in Rathauspark, saw some men with sausage dogs and were laughed at while playing in the park by an old man on a bench. We walked back to town, passing a shop called "Bags With IQ" and went on a search for a snowstorm. It didn't take long and, content with our purchase, we stopped for ice cream (hazelnut and amaretto semi-freddo) and slowly walked back to the hostel. We saw a shop called "Handy John" on the way back to the hostel, and passed a night club called "Your House".
We had a new guy in our hostel that night, a young French guy called Martin who has been hitch-hiking around Europe and is planning to head from here to south-east Europe. So there were 7 of us in the dorm - Nicole & Rob, the guys from Kansas, Tiffany & Tamara, sisters from California, us and Martin. We had a really nice night in just chatting about art and photography (in which Nicole majored) and watching ridiculous shows on MTV while trying to explain what was happening to Martin, who had fairly limited English. We had a great night in (one of my favourites of the whole trip) and, after doing some laundry in the bathroom sink, we snacked on bread and chocolate spread. At around 11pm a guy from reception came up and asked us to keep the noise down and we felt like schoolkids. We finally went to bed after another lightning storm, but the Americans stayed up another couple of hours. I, however, fell fast asleep to the soothing sound of the rain on the windowsill.
Martin left early the next morning, to hitch-hike to Budapest, and the Americans went out early too. We eventually got up and, after all the walking we have done lately, we decided to treat ourselves to a tram ride! The tram was really bizarre, it went underground and the stations were like tube stations. We had a 10 minute journey down to the south west of the city, the only part we had not yet visited. The entire area looked really rundown and when we tried to find a Lomo shop it ended up being just a warehouse :( from there we walked to Schloss Schonbrunn, where we saw a nun wearing a pale grey skirt suit. We picnicked under an arch of the palace while it rained all around us. We dropped a couple of crisps and watched in fascination as a mass of ants enveloped them and, instead of moving them anywhere, it looked like they were holding on and sucking all the flavour off. We watched for about 15 minutes then went for a rainy walk around the palace grounds. The gardens were really pretty, lots of fountains and beautifully patterned flowerbeds. In a corner at the far end of the palace grounds was a zoo called the Imperial Zoo, so John and I did what can only be expected of us, very bad Darth Vader impressions along the lines of: "Luke, I am your father... Now let us see the pandas."
We passed loads of fountains, took obligatory fountain impression photos and saw ducks racing in one of them. The rain got much worse so we headed back under cover, stopping by the ants to check their progress. The crisps were significantly lighter in colour than they were, so they must have sucked them dry! The toilet at the palace was really swanky and the middle-aged assistant at the front entrance had a computer on which she was playing some kind of role-play game. The other cool thing about the toilet was that after it flushed the toilet seat rotated and a bit shot out of the cistern bit to wipe the seat as it rotated! The rain progressed into a big ol' storm so we sat under cover and people and lightning watched. We saw a man with the highest waisted trousers ever, a huge grasshopper jump onto the head of a young girl and the fattest pigeons we have ever seen. The air was really warm and muggy and the lightning was cracking right above us, but we got impatient and (armed with our huge Ljubljana umbrella) braved the rain and headed to the centre of town through the "alternative" area of Vienna. We got to the Hofburg just in time to meet Nicole, Rob, Tiffany, Tamara and Hannah for dinner. We went to a Turkish/Mediterranean restaurant and had another lovely evening. They were all very amused when I remarked that I was quite fond of John (which I am!) and we made a plan to have a USA road trip next year as a Room 206 reunion. Tiffany and Tam left to get their bus to Venice and John and I walked back to the hostel for a quiet night in on our last night in Vienna.
On our way back we passed a billboard poster advertising the Imperial Zoo, which had a big picture of a panda and a speech bubble saying "Hello, Little One. How nice it is to see you LIVE!" This made me glad we hadn't gone to the zoo after all.